An alliance of trade unions has launched an effort to lobby the government to save thousands of engineering jobs threatened by Qantas plans to consolidate its heavy maintenance operations.
The unions – the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, the Australian Workers Union and the Electrical Trades Union – say they will join forces to push state and federal governments as well as the airline itself to keep the jobs of some 6000 engineering employees in Australia.
Separately, however, the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association, which represents Qantas engineers, says it believes the airline has already decided to close down its maintenance operation at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport, a move that would cost about 400 jobs.
That would likely see Qantas shift maintenance of its Boeing 737 fleet from Tullamarine to nearby Avalon Airport, where Qantas maintains its Boeing 747s. But the union says that would only be a short-term reprieve for Avalon’s 700 engineers.
Qantas says it will not make a final decision until a consultation period ends in mid-April. The airline has said it plans to consolidate its three maintenance facilities – the third is at Brisbane Airport — to one or two. The airline claims newer aircraft and more efficient maintenance procedures have cut into demand for heavy maintenance, an assertion the unions dispute.
Also at issue is the offshoring of maintenance work. Qantas currently does about 90 per cent of its heavy maintenance in Australia and has vowed not to move any of the existing work overseas. But the airline says it pays about 30 per cent more for maintenance than its competitors, and it has chosen overseas maintenance for its newest aircraft, the Airbus A380, a decision seen as foreshadowing its plans for future aircraft such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.